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10 Tips for Email Communication Etiquette

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The speed of zipping off an email has made it the preferred method of communication. Whether you send a personal or business email, following proper etiquette is essential to prevent miscommunication or hard feelings.

Keep the Golden Rule in mind and treat the recipient as you would want to be treated. Before you click “send” on any email take a minute and give it an extra read-through. Effective use of email can put you in a positive light with your supervisor and may even give you an edge when it's time for a promotion.

1. Don't assume privacy.

Keep in mind that your company and personal email may not be private. Your company has the right to read anything sent from the office, so never write and send personal or highly sensitive information from work. Personal email from home may be forwarded, so don’t put anything in writing that could cause a problem if it reaches the wrong person.

2. Stay away from offensive comments.

Avoid offensive comments in your email. This includes racist, sexist, or negative remarks about another person or company. If you receive an offensive email, don’t reply or forward it to anyone. Never use email to say anything that can be misconstrued to your boss.

3. Don't shout.

Remember that when you type in all caps, your email comes across as shouting. Some people think it makes their message easier to read, but that isn’t the case. Use a font that is easy on the eyes when read in standard case letters.

4. Edit your messages.

Edit your emails before you send them. Use spellchecker and go over all business emails to make sure you have proper grammar. You always want to present yourself as a professional in correspondence. Check personal email after you finish writing it to make sure it gets your intended point across. Dropping a single word can change the meaning of a sentence.

5. Reply with caution.

Know the proper way to reply to emails you receive. Pay close attention to the sender and the others in the “to” and “cc” fields. Respond as quickly as possible rather than let your “saved” folder become too cluttered.

Avoid the urge to hit “reply all” before looking to see who is listed in the header. Your response may confuse others on the list, or you might wind up sending unnecessary information to people you don’t know. The only time you should click “reply all” is if you are sure everyone needs the information you are sending.

6. Familiarize yourself with email tools.

Know the tools and types of email. This includes “to,” “cc,” “bcc,” and subject lines. The main recipient should be in the “to” field. When you need to copy someone, you would normally add that person to the “cc” or carbon copy field. If someone needs to be copied without the others on the list receiving his or her email, use “bcc” or blind carbon copy. Only copy people who need to know the information you are sending.

Never forward chain emails. These can become cumbersome and clog people’s email boxes to the point of annoyance. You don’t want to become the person who forwards messages that may or may not be true.

You should always fill in the subject line for a business related email, and it is preferred in personal email. Keep the subject line as short as possible and only have one topic per mailing.

7. Keep it brief.

Most people prefer brief emails rather than long, wordy messages. If possible, state your point in a couple of sentences. For a longer message start with an introductory paragraph letting people know the basics. If you have more than one topic, split your message into more than mailing, with one topic per email.

8. Watch your tone.

Maintain a positive tone in your email communications. Remember that snarky remarks may come across as mean-spirited rather than funny. Save the sarcastic humor for voice communications so others can hear the tone of your voice. This also includes anger. You should always avoid sending angry emails, or you may risk offending someone you work with or care about.

9. Use priority flags with discretion.

If you have a high priority flag, only use it when necessary. Using it too much will eventually have the opposite effect you want and send your emails to the bottom of the priority list for the recipients.

10. Sign your name.

Don’t forget to sign your emails. The recipients may get annoyed if they have to scroll up and figure out who sent them the message. If you expect a response by phone, be sure to include the number, even if you know the person has it on file. The purpose of email is to save time, and having to stop what he or she is doing will slow things down. If you have a signature line, keep it updated with the proper email address and phone numbers.
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